California Dream

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This is my third time in California.

It has been more than two months since I moved to Silicon Valley, California, Xiong officially started a new job, and I officially started a new job. We moved to a well-located apartment and enjoyed the pool and endless sunshine in the long summer, and the balconies in every home we loved when we were in Germany. We bought outdoor wood chairs and tables specifically for the balcony, as well as solar powered mason jar fairy lights. The iron-absorbing whiteboard on the refrigerator is filled with home improvement items we’ll be doing, like changing the shower head, recycling cardboard boxes, installing mirrors, and applying frosted film to balcony glass doors.

We explored the various supermarkets nearby and got serious about grocery shopping. Buy barbari that is half-length longer than me in a Middle Eastern supermarket, and hummus that are many times better and spicier than those bought in a traditional American supermarket. We fill our refrigerators like squirrels and let out a sigh of contentment. The inside of the refrigerator uses a rigorous classification system. Women are on the left and men are on the right, and the vegetables are on the high and the meat is on the low.

Surprisingly, the smart access control we are using now was developed by Xiong in the previous company. He also proudly poses with the access control system. Our apartment has high ceilings, a post-industrial look of grey concrete exposed directly, and chunky silver pipes can be seen. Close the door, this is our castle. Although smaller and more expensive than the previous New Jersey condos, the surroundings are very nice. There are many dogs and a beautiful blue-eyed grey cat who often comes downstairs for walks. The soundproofing and facilities in the apartment are also particularly beautiful, with a subtropical resort hotel feel. The two of us are obsessed with pool in the common area and can’t wait to play a few games every day after get off work. It’s a pity that Xiong is too smart to think silently, and beat me, who has been a fan for a few years, to nothing.

We still miss being able to walk freely and messy public transportation in New York. My friends and I used to walk the streets of Manhattan, New York, but in California we could only drive. I just lost my legs without being able to drive. What is even more frightening is that I have taken the written driver’s license test three or four times at home and abroad, and only failed in the California test. Have to retake the exam.

Bear did a lot of homework and ended up buying me one of the best pepper sprays in NYC getting worse and worse. I take it with me every time I go out. Coming to California, we let our guard down by the beauty and the food and the friendly people. In November last year, I came to California to rent a car for a tour and was told the possibility of being smashed, but I never experienced it once. But one evening, not long after we moved in, we found a Thai restaurant in high spirits and parked in the parking lot not far from the restaurant. After I finished my meal, I came out to pick up the car and drove out for two minutes. I felt a gust of wind blowing behind me. Then, when I turned, the back of the back seat suddenly fell down. We freaked out and thought someone was in the car. Quickly parked in a safe area, and saw that the last small glass window on the left was smashed. Someone presumably tried to reach through the small window and overwhelm the rear seat back, looking through the trunk. We only had a few grocery bags from the supermarket in the trunk. We suddenly felt joy and sorrow, and a sense of disillusionment with the vision of a better life in California in the future. Call the police, the police say, oh well, then you fill in the form and report it online. Fortunately, this car is a rental car provided by the company for the newly moved employees, otherwise the procedures and repairs are very troublesome.

Bear bought two more pepper sprays after this incident.

Turns out this wasn’t the only car theft involved. When we moved into the building, the garage was randomly assigned a location away from the elevator. We discussed with the property, and the property manager said that unless you are disabled, it is impossible to change. I wrote to the property manager’s boss asking for a change of parking location, as a woman wants to have a safe place close to the elevator. The boss readily agreed and gave us three places to choose from. We also applied to move the allocated storage room next to the parking lot. The new parking lot is a straight line distance from the elevator. There is a public wireless network on the second basement floor, but there are no lights on the top, so it’s a bit dark.

We were out on the weekend and as soon as I opened the door, the glove compartment was open. The bear found that the lock on the driver’s side had been picked, but the glass had not been smashed. There were some door lock parts scattered around. Our hearts suddenly became heavy again. I thought we were targeted by thieves because our parking place was dark, but it turned out that many of the neighbors’ cars in the building were stolen and vandalized on the same day, even the cars parked in front of the elevator. Thieves can easily follow the resident’s car into the garage door, which will open for a period of time after it is opened, enough for three cars to enter.

Because in Silicon Valley, you can see big and famous companies along the road. Most of these companies are in a single building on the wasteland beside the highway. At the next table in the restaurant, I often hear people discussing a programming language for databases. There is a joke that when you go to IKEA, you often hear young code farmers and couples discussing algorithms fiercely. Bears and I fit the atmosphere here.

I learned to wear two kinds of sunscreen when I go out, bring a foldable sun hat, large sunglasses, and sun protection clothing to protect against the California sun.

The vegetation here is very magical. Pine trees in the cold zone and palm trees in the tropical zone coexist. The sea buckthorn and gray-green grass on the roadside are only plants in the desert. Here we have seen blistering cliffs and gentle waters, as well as brightly colored moss growing in the desert by the sea.

When I came to San Francisco last year, I saw a huge increase in the number of homeless people. In the tourist-heavy commercial center, there are ragged people facing the corner and smashing their heads against the wall, muttering words. An old friend who has lived in California all her life in her seventies told me that she had never seen so many homeless people. In a small and peaceful town where I have lived for more than half a year, I recently heard several cases of people being shot dead in roadside cars.

We drove through wide highways, and the billboards on the side of the road were all software-related content. Beautiful and expensive apartments are being built one by one, tech workers’ wages are getting higher and higher, and the number of homeless people is increasing. I am reminded of a group of artists painting murals in an alley that runs perpendicular to a pretty street in San Francisco. A lot of content is about how to return the hometown that was plundered by capital and high prices to ordinary people. I remembered the photo Bear showed me, a few workers from Latin America, sleeping in the cramped trunk of a pickup truck. For the sake of personal safety and to support their families, they would rather come to the United States to pick fruit, day and night, without a place to sleep. Reminds me of the homeless tents we saw on the side of the road in Los Angeles, with huge Hollywood signs flashing on the hills not far away. Remembering that in the studio, those beautiful mansions are all fantasies built indoors. Professionals call this a stage. The swimming pool is very shallow, and there is no ceiling and only stage lights.

This is heaven and hell.

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